Sky High

A Shenandoah retreat gains a pool scape as dramatic as its hilltop views

Set on the highest point of a Shenandoah estate, the expansive residence presides over its 100-plus acres like a comfortable castle. But construction had left a barren slope in the foreground between the house and its views. To enhance that space for entertaining, the owners called on landscape architect J.R. Peter of Colao & Peter. The family’s wish list began with an infinity-edge pool, which presented a significant challenge. “The hill is composed of solid granite,” recalls Peter. “The entire project had to be designed to be above grade.”

To construct a six-foot-deep pool despite the bedrock, Peter took advantage of the slope. A series of terraces supported by retaining walls extends the ground plane outward. The uppermost level provides a viewing platform on a gently sloping front lawn. Three steps down, a new terrace holds a pavilion with an open-air dining room, and a kitchen and lounge enclosed by pocket doors. Three more steps take visitors down to a 50-by-20-foot pool. Engineered with vanishing edges on two sides, the pool appears to be floating on air.

The designer chose rustic ledgestone for walls and tumbled travertine for terraces in keeping with the natural setting, while a linear pattern of thermal bluestone honors the clients’ contemporary instincts. Today, amid hydrangea and drift roses, two Japanese zelkova trees have been planted at lawn’s edge to frame the incomparable vistas.

Award: Grand, Craftsmanship. Landscape Architecture: J.R. Peter, RLA, Colao & Peter Luxury Outdoor Living, Fairfax. Virginia.